27 February 2008
FINAL REPORT OF THE
ELECTORAL OBSERVATION MISSION IN JAMAICA
GENERAL ELECTION 2007
This document is being distributed to the permanent missions and
will be presented to the Permanent Council of the Organization.
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
FINAL REPORT OF THE
ELECTORAL OBSERVATION MISSION IN JAMAICA
GENERAL ELECTION 2007
Secretariat for Political Affairs
Political Party and Campaign Financing Framework
Participants in the electoral process
Observations of the OAS
C. Post-Election Process
Conclusions and Recommendations
In an exchange of correspondence beginning in June 2007, Errol Miller, Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), invited the Organization of American States (OAS) to field an electoral observation mission in Jamaica. The Organization of American States (OAS) responded positively to this request and arranged, for the first time, to observe elections on the island. During a short preliminary mission, from August 15 to 16, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin met with the various administrative and political actors in the electoral process to discuss preparations for the election and signed an agreement with the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) establishing the objectives and procedures for the observers’ activities. During this visit, the OAS also signed an agreement of privileges and immunities with the Government of Jamaica and another agreement of electoral guarantees with the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ).
Due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Dean, the elections, originally scheduled for August 27, were postponed by a week until September 3. Among the effects of the hurricane was the almost total loss of electricity throughout the island. Hurricane Dean not only disrupted the preparations for the elections, but the mission as well. Flights had to be rerouted and expenses increased accordingly. Despite these adverse circumstances, the OAS fielded a mission comprising 38 international observers from 15 countries, who were deployed in 88 percent of the island’s constituencies. A core group of observers employed by the OAS joined a group of volunteers from resident diplomatic missions and from the University of the West Indies.
Since universal franchise in the 1940s, these elections proved to be the closest in the country’s history. Candidates from the two traditional parties of Jamaica, the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) competed in all 60 of the island’s constituencies. In 19 constituencies candidates ran independently or with a third political party. However, none of these succeeded in winning a seat. After 18 years of government by the People’s National Party (PNP), the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) returned to power with 33 seats, while the People’s National Party (PNP), with 27 seats, forms the new Opposition. By Jamaican standards, voter turnout was a relatively low 60%.
On Election Day, observers were deployed throughout the country, witnessing firsthand the electoral preparations, voting, and counting of ballots. They noted that, despite violent acts and loss of life in the campaign period, Election Day itself was peaceful. With few exceptions, polls throughout the country opened on time. The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) had effectively addressed the challenges posed by Hurricane Dean: polling stations provided the room, shelter, and equipment needed by voters. The appropriate election materials were present and, for the most part, well-trained election officials performed their duties efficiently and conscientiously. Everywhere, security was present and adequate. Auxiliary security workers manned the polling stations; the police and armed forces maintained order around the polling centers both during voting and during tallying. Party agents maintained a spirit of collegiality and worked together with election officials to ensure a smooth and orderly process.
Almost without exception, everyone whose name was on the voters’ list was able to vote. Even those citizens without identifying documentation were afforded their franchise through alternative verification processes. Observers remarked that officials were scrupulous in ensuring that no voter who could prove their entitlement to vote was disenfranchised. In 700 polling centers in the most contentious constituencies, also known as “Garrison Constituencies” in Jamaica, the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) had implemented an Electronic Voter Identification and Ballot Issuing System, using fingerprints to verify voter identities. Reports from OAS observers and those of local electoral observation group Citizens’ Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) indicated that this technology worked well and was confidently accepted by both officials and voters.
Lines in the morning were long in many places. The wait was exacerbated by the fact that many voters did not have proper identification and their identities had to be verified through a series of questions. Lines eventually subsided and all who wanted to, voted. Polls closed promptly at 5:00 p.m. and, as at the opening, electoral officials followed procedures appropriately and expeditiously. Preliminary results were released the same day.
At the invitation of the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), the Mission appointed a member of its team to participate in the deliberations of the Election Center, a mechanism that, in the run-up to the election, permitted the political parties to voice their concerns to appropriate authorities and seek immediate responses to these concerns. The observer of this process was impressed by the openness and effectiveness of the Election Center, which allowed participants from across the political spectrum to communicate grievances or anxieties in a neutral setting and to request and see quick action on security and election management.
The OAS Mission wishes to recognize and thank all those involved in the General Elections of 2007 in Jamaica. In particular, the Mission congratulates the Jamaican people on their peaceful and orderly participation in this vital democratic exercise. The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), headed by Danville Walker, did an excellent job under difficult circumstances. Election officials, the constabulary and security forces all performed their duties in an exemplary fashion, as did the national electoral observation group, CAFFE. There were some ways in which the Mission felt the electoral process in Jamaica could be improved and these are detailed in the conclusions and recommendations of this report. Overall, however, the conclusion of the OAS observation Mission in Jamaica is positive. These elections were extremely well organized, transparent, and every effort was made to promote the participation of all citizens.
The Mission would also like to thank the Governments of Canada, the People’s Republic of China and the United States for providing crucial financial support and observers and, likewise, the Governments of the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Haiti as well as the University of the West Indies, which also contributed volunteer observers.
CHAPTER I. BACKGROUND
Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba, with a land area of 10,831 square kilometers and a population of 2,780,132, of which approximately 91.2 percent are black, 6.2 percent are of mixed race, and 2.6 percent are of white or other ethnicity. The island’s modern economy is heavily dependent on services, which account for over 60 percent of the GDP. Tourism is a growth sector, but other important industries, such as bauxite mining, fruit production, sugar, and coffee have struggled in the face of international competition and events such as Hurricane Ivan in 2004, which caused extensive damage. Jamaica has steadily reduced its public debt in recent years and inflation has fallen, but the public debt to GDP ratio remains high, at over 130 percent, and unemployment, underemployment and violence fueled by gangs involved in the illegal drug trade remain significant challenges.
Initially populated by Amerindian Tainos, Jamaica was colonized by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, causing extermination of the native population. The colonists increasingly brought slaves from West Africa to supply labor; some escaped into the island’s interior, becoming known as cimmarones (“untamed”), a word later corrupted by the British into ‘Maroons’. In the mid seventeenth century, a British force led by Robert Venables and William Penn captured Jamaica from the Spanish and large tracts of the island were divided into estates for the naval officers involved in the conquest. Buccaneers, who pursued Spanish ships in Caribbean waters, were initially encouraged by the British, who benefited from the defense and booty they afforded, but were then outlawed, as the Jamaican economy turned from intercepting South American cargo to exporting sugar, of which in the eighteenth century it became the world’s biggest producer.
Sugar and coffee plantations manned by large numbers of slaves, kept in squalid conditions, generated enormous wealth for a small number of colonists. Grotesque inequality and abuse produced continual conflict between slaves and slave owne